Yogananda’s mission has taken two divergent directions: the one, toward narrow institutionalism; the other, toward universality. I represent the expansive interpretation of his mission. SRF represents the narrower view. Which of the two is correct? Are they even compatible? If SRF’s interpretation is right, then is mine wrong? And if mine is correct, then is theirs, albeit understandable, unlikely to prevail for long?
They have seniority on their side. On mine, I have common sense. I also have backing me Master’s own words—not to me only; I also have his oft-reiterated public statements. I stated in the Introduction that Yogananda spoke fervently throughout his public life of the need for spiritually minded people to join together in cooperative, harmonious, self-sustaining communities.
a) In article after article, and in lecture after lecture, he emphasized his deep conviction that such communities were needed. On numerous occasions I heard him express himself with great enthusiasm on this issue. It was a basic theme of his long before I arrived on the scene—as long ago, indeed, as the early 1930s.
b) In 1949, a woman named Mrs. Myers gave a garden party in Master’s honor in Beverly Hills, a wealthy section of Los Angeles. About eight hundred guests attended, among them many famous Hollywood figures. At the end of the party, Mrs. Myers invited her special guest to address the gathering.
What would have been an honored guest’s usual response to such an invitation? Under the circumstances, surely, he would have offered a few gracious words of thanks and appreciation to his hostess; a few pleasant words of welcome to the guests themselves; and perhaps—in Yogananda’s case—a few kindly and thoughtful insights on life in general.
What actually happened? It could not have been more different from such a tame expectation! Virtually, what he delivered that day was a verbal explosion!
Speaking in a voice of thunder, his words filled with divine power, the Master shouted: “This day marks the beginning of a new era! My spoken words are registered in the ether, in the Spirit of God, and they SHALL MOVE THE WEST! . . . We must go on—not only those who are here, but thousands of youths must go north, south, east, and west to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simple living plus high thinking produce the greatest happiness.”
Years later, those words were read during a Sunday service at Ananda Village. Gently and devotionally the speaker whispered, “Thousands of youths must go north, south,” etc. At this point I cried out, “Give me that book!” I thereupon read the words as I had myself heard them delivered that day by the Master. Everyone present that day was shocked by their power.
c) Virtually all of his monastic disciples were present on that occasion. I cannot believe that Daya, his personal secretary, would have been absent. But even if she was, she had certainly heard him address this subject on many other occasions, and with only slightly less fervor.
Yet when I asked her, in 1958, “When are we going to start creating Master’s world-brotherhood communities?” she replied casually, and much to my amazement: “Frankly, I’m not interested.”
d) The party line now being offered by SRF is: “Master changed his mind toward the end of his life. He lost interest in the idea of communities.” Mrinalini Mata herself, whom I used to consider truthful, was the one responsible for making this incredible misstatement to me. Evidently, in her mind, loyalty to the “party line” claimed the highest priority.
I state categorically therefore, in absolute contradiction to her words, that Master never changed his mind on this issue, or indeed on any other important one—least of all, certainly, on this one. He was, after all, a spiritual master! For him to have stated with so much power, “My spoken words are registered in the ether, in the Spirit of God . . . and they shall move the West! . . .” and then, years later, simply to “change his mind” would have been completely—and laughably!—unthinkable.
In fact, Kamala Silva, in her book, The Flawless Mirror, wrote that only four months before his death Master had spoken to her with great enthusiasm about the need for spiritual communities. (This fact, too, may have been one reason for Daya’s displeasure with Kamala—which, toward the end of Kamala’s life, became painfully evident.)
e) In the original “Aims and Ideals of SRF,” Master wrote (as I stated earlier) that one of his mission’s main purposes was “To spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples; and to aid in establishing, in many countries, self-sustaining world-brotherhood colonies for plain living and high thinking.”
After his death, SRF changed that basic mission statement to read: “To encourage ‘plain living and high thinking’; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples. . . .” The new wording omits all reference to the founding of communities.
Today, as I said, there is no reference in any SRF publication to world brotherhood communities, and to this concept as being one of the basic “aims and ideals” of Self-Realization Fellowship.
f) Ananda, for its twentieth anniversary in 1988, organized a pilgrimage to Encinitas and to the other SRF colonies. In Encinitas, SRF’s Sister Shanti announced to a little group of us in my presence, “Oh yes, I know many people have tried to start cooperative communities, but none have succeeded.” And this was Ananda’s twentieth anniversary!
Ananda Village, near Nevada City, has in this year, 2011, completed its forty-third year of thriving existence.
What SRF has done is try to change at least this one basic aspect of Yogananda’s legacy for the world. There are others, as I shall explain in the following pages. But this basic change alone, and Daya’s words to me (“Frankly, I’m not interested”), show a readiness to betray his entire legacy. Indeed, what is this if not betrayal?
Such is my point of view, and it is morally justifiable for me to say so if only to answer their charge of my treachery. Yet, in all fairness I must add that the pathway to truth has many ramifications. Daya’s love for Master was very personal—indeed one might say, feminine. Mine has been more impersonal and, perhaps, masculine. Her loyalty has been to him as a human being. Mine has been to him, as he himself urged me to see him, as a “bulge of the Ocean”—that is, as a manifestation of Infinite God. Master himself counseled this kind of loyalty. On leaving Boston for the West Coast, he said to Dr. Lewis, “Never mind what happens to me, Doctor. Just don’t forget God.”
My loyalty to him was personal also. Once in India I visited Morarji Desai (who later became India’s prime minister) to solicit his support for my Delhi project. He spoke deprecatingly of my guru and, indeed, of all gurus. Turning to the person who’d come with me, I said, “Let us leave.” Not another word did I address to Mr. Desai. He phoned later and apologized, but from then on I was never able to hold him in the high esteem his high position demanded.
Daya’s loyalty to Master, however, was personal in a way that I could never share. She seemed to feel almost as though she owned him. His writings, his recordings: these were, to her, personal possessions to be kept precious, protected from others. This attitude was one that I could never hold.